Australia, we don’t know you, but we love you, say our American friends

Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 04:39 pm
To me this is a puff piece at best but I did like some of the comments - especially the guy who says the majority of Australians would think of Italy as pizza and pasta. To suggest that the US has an 'unrequited love' for Australia (or the idea of it) is ludicrous when we're the ones getting upset they don't know us and that we can name their state capitals and local traditions. I think the love goes the other way more.

Source: http://theconversation.edu.au/australia-we-dont-know-you-but-we-love-you-say-our-american-friends-4331

Susan Maushart - lecturer in communication and media studies at Fordham University

Americans may not think about Australia much, but when they do, they try not to let facts get in the way. But why should we be surprised by that? With great passion comes great ignorance. And Americans are nothing if not passionate about Australia.

On the eve of President Obama’s historic visit to Australian shores this week, US attitudes toward Australia are as enthusiastic as they are under-informed.

People here love Australia. Or I should say they love “Australia” – an imaginative projection so cheesy, Vaseline-coated and fact-free it makes Luhrman look like cinema verite.

Only three people out of more than a hundred informally polled in and around New York City on Tuesday was aware of the presidential visit. Only one correctly identified the purpose of the mission.

And when asked to speculate, their answers ranged from the creative to the surreal (“Wait – is it something to do with regional tensions between Australia and New Zealand?”).

“Maybe vacation with his family?” several people ventured when asked why Obama was on his way to Australia. Others guessed that the purpose of the visit was “something about pollution” or possibly Australia’s “bad financial situation” – pretty rich, considering the chronic fatigue that seems to have settled over the US economy.

A university student was pretty sure “the President is going to Australia to discuss how they feel about Greece.” A middle-aged commuter at Grand Central Station had different ideas. “Mmm, is he negotiating his retirement home?” he suggested wistfully.

Yet the most common response was a headscratch of global proportions.

“I don’t really think of Australia. Ever,” a 20-year-old university student admitted cheerfully. Given the extent of Australian coverage in the US media, that’s hardly surprising.

On Tuesday morning, as the Obama delegation were en route to Canberra to announce plans for a sustained US military presence in the quote-unquote frontier town of Darwin, the New York Times devoted exactly one phrase to the mission. The implication was clear that the Australian visit constituted a kind of transit lounge – a bag of foreign policy peanuts between two main meals, the twin trade summits in Hawaii and Indonesia.

At the same time, in one of the great unrequited trans-national love stories of all time, Americans love Australia. They love Australian native animals, from the cuddly (koala bears, Hugh Jackman) to the killer (the Great White, Rupert Murdoch). They love the “outback” – as only a people who fetishise the notion of frontier could do – and “the Aborigines” because, as a 56-year-old North Carolina man explained to me, “no one has managed to exterminate them yet”. “I want to move there!” he declared with feeling.

Asked what she knew about Australian culture, one young woman dredged up a montage of stereotypically vague associations. (“Um …"mate" and “sheila” and the toilets spin the other way …?”) Her information source? A Mary Kate and Ashley movie.

That may be cringeworthy, but it’s hardly unusual. American’s impressions of Australia are overwhelmingly the residue of images from American pop culture. “When I think of Australia, images of kangaroos and men and women in safari costumes come to mind, narrated by the voice-over guy from the [US-owned] Outback Steakhouse commercials,” was how one Ugg-boot-wearing 19-year-old summed it up. What? No Sydney Oprah House?

“It’s always been my dream to visit Australia,” I was told over and over again. Yet for most, the prospect seemed as realistic as a Contiki Cruise to Mars. “Oh heavens, no,” a beautifully dressed woman in her 60s protested “It’s much too far to actually go there”.

Today, shark attacks, surf brands and Victoria’s Secret models arguably cast a longer shadow than Crocodile Dundee – yet a generation on, those fabled shrimp on the barbie continue to sizzle in the American imagination. Julia Gillard or no Julia Gillard, Australia is still seen as a place where women glow and men are bad-asses.

“A good general rule to follow,” I was told by a high school history teacher, aged 36, “is that a if you are in a bar and you are about to throw down with a guy, if he has an Australian accent and is missing a tooth – wave a white flag, buy him a Fosters and get the hell out of there.”

No, he’s never visited the country, he admitted. But, as the father of a three-year-old, he’s seen Finding Nemo at least 200 times, and surely that’s got to count for something.
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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 04:57 pm
I was about six years old when I became aware that they spoke English in Australia. A lot of us kids in the United States were trying to learn all the words in "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport." We loved singing that song.

How is that for awareness of Australia?
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 04:59 pm
What? I'm surprised no references to the king and queen, Nicole and whatsherhusband, the country singer?? Keith Urban - just joshing you..
To be honest, I was surprised when I did hear the purpose of Obama's trip. I had no idea Oz had been courting the US military. I figured they had enough bases in the vicinity. Who knew??
Don't feel too bad though. Most haven't the vaguest clue what goes on north of them either. I believe that a good proportion still think we have snow 12 months of the year and we live in Igloos, dog sleds, blah blah blah.. you know the drill. lol
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:01 pm
do you still have Randy Quaid?
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:02 pm
It fits the stereotype JW. When I was six I used to love singing 'Home, home on the range'. How's that for awareness of the US? Wink
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:04 pm
I learned all aboutAustralia from a Robert Mitchum film. Forgot the name of it. Also learned from Pogo Possum comic strip to say "ruddy cobber."
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:05 pm
that is still my favorite hymn, hinge...

but most of the other states don't look like the song does.

where do you guys get the bloomin' onions from?
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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:06 pm
Well I think you've brushed the nub there Ceili - it's not that they are particularly disinterested in Australia - they have a pretty uniform disinterest in all their sibling English colonies. And why not?
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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:08 pm
And "fair dinkum."
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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:16 pm
i love Australia, a couple of my favourite bands are from down under (Hunters & Collectors and Weddings,Parties, Anything)

in the 90's the CBC showed a number of Australian tv shows (A Country Practice, Richmond Hill, The Flying Doctors, Mother & Son and yes, Neighbours)

i also have a number of favourite Australian films, Gallipoli, Breaker Morant, My Brilliant Career, The Getting of Wisdom, Mad Max, The Picture Show Man, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Romper Stomper, We of the Never Never, The Dish
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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:16 pm
I learned all about Australia from the movies, too. It seems like a beautiful country. All the rivers and the mountains and the palatial estates and the singing children. Not too keen on all those Australian Nazis, but Sound of Music was still a great film.
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:28 pm
I want to visit Vienna as something on my bucket list.
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 06:03 pm
I know Australia, I love Australia. I know Peter Daniels, who spent a lot of time in the U.S. giving his seminars and motivational speeches in late 1980s, 90's. Yeah, everybody loved Peter, because he was Australian. Americans love the Australian accent.

One year the country (Australia) put together a Mogul Ski Team and our son was the coach for a season. So, we have tons of photos of Australia, Mount Bullar, where they trained. He, his wife and baby lived in the country somewhere north of Melbourne. This was in 1985. Their daughter Jesalyn is still nick-named Jesarue, the name of her grampa's boat too.

We might not know you all very well but, yes, we love ya! Especially the movie, The Man from Snowy River. Watch it still. Like the horses, too, and those 'Australian' saddles. I had one.
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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 06:06 pm
where they make them little canned sausages?

how odd...
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Green Witch
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 06:12 pm
My husband lived and worked in Australia throughout his 20's, so I know it through his eyes, but other than that my other favorite source of Aussie info was this book:

Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 06:30 pm
@Green Witch,
When I left Canberra some close friends gave me a T-Shirt with a Bill Bryson quote:

"Canberra - why wait for death?"
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 06:35 pm
I learned all aboutAustralia from a Robert Mitchum film

Ryan's Daughter?
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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 06:44 pm
The Sundowners is a 1960 film that tells the story of an Australian outback family torn between the father's desires to continue his nomadic sheep-herding ways and the wife's and son's desire to settle down in one place. The movie stars Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, and Peter Ustinov, with a supporting cast including Glynis Johns, Dina Merrill, Michael Anderson, Jr., and Chips Rafferty.

The film was adapted by Isobel Lennart from the novel by Jon Cleary and directed by Fred Zinnemann.

The Sundowners was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Deborah Kerr), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Glynis Johns), Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 06:47 pm
I'm skipping along from the first post to remember what I knew when -

I don't remember not knowing people in australia spoke english - I just did, probably from my father. I'm sure we looked at maps. He spent time in some pacific islands for the military and my mother was later a devoted donator to missionaries in the then Formosa, and a pal of my father's was an early deep sea diver with a lot of stories. If it wasn't clear for me before, I learned about australia from the diving guy at our dinner table (John Craig of Danger is My Business and other endeavors). Or from watching tv - who knows, I just knew that.

I learned about the Maori when? Maybe as early as elementary school or just reading Life or Newsweek.

In my twenties, the sixties, our research lab had an expert from Perth spend time and a 'fellow' from New Zealand. I most remember the doctor from New Zealand, how he described the country. Well, not his exact words, but the fondness, beauty in his talk of where he lived.

Skipping along, I think Dlowan sounds like a bird, simply gorgeous voice. It's hard for me to hear her both because of my wacky ears and the differences in lilt with pace - I probably sound like a low mooing cow to her, as I've a monotone, unusual even in the u.s.. that's ok, I'm used to it by now.

I figure australians are chumps just like we are, and virgins and saviours and just as engaged.

Not to let Dlowan be up there alone on the incredible voice perch - have any of you spoken to Kara, known earlier as Karateka. Now there's a woman.
Not australian.
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Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 06:58 pm
I don't like Bryson but that's a good tee shirt.

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